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In the hours following the reported chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday, ailing men, women, and children flocked to the city's hospitals. Doctors in the Syrian capital treated thousands of patients who were experiencing neurotoxic symptoms, including pinpoint pupils, foaming mouths, convulsions, blurry vision, and difficulty breathing. The symptoms point to exposure to sarin gas or another drug agent, a weapons expert told Bloomberg. To combat the effects of what might be the world's worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years, the hospital staff turned to atropine—at least until they ran out of the drug.
The Mark I NAAK, or MARK I Kit, is United States military nomenclature for the "Nerve Agent Antidote Kit". It is a dual-chamber autoinjector: Two anti-nerve agent drugs — atropine sulfate and pralidoxime chloride — each in injectable form, constitute the kit. The kits are only effective against the nerve agents Tabun (GA), Sarin (GB), Soman (GD) and VX.
Typically, U.S. servicemembers are issued three MARK I Kits when operating in circumstances where chemical weapons are considered a potential hazard. Along with the three kits are issued one CANA (Convulsive Antidote, Nerve Agent) for simultaneous use. (CANA is the drug diazepam or Valium, an anticonvulsant.) Both of these kits are intended for use in "buddy aid" or "self aid" administration of the drugs prior to decontamination and delivery of the patient to definitive medical care.
A newer model, the ATNAA (Antidote Treatment Nerve Agent Auto-Injector), has both the atropine and the pralidoxime in one syringe, allowing for simplified administration.
The use of a Mark 1 or ATNAA kit inhibits the nerve agents' purpose, thereby reducing the number of fatal casualties in the advent of chemical warfare. The kits should only be administered if nerve agents have been absorbed or inhaled.